Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

HAPPY RETURNS: RAISES, PROMOTIONS HELP COUPLE Series: MONEY MAKEOVER

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

HAPPY RETURNS: RAISES, PROMOTIONS HELP COUPLE Series: MONEY MAKEOVER

Article excerpt

Two years ago, Keith and Ann Shirey were young apartment-dwellers awaiting the arrival of their first child.

They were determined to buy a house. They were also in debt and worried about money.

Today, little Ashleigh Shirey - a blond-haired Barney fan - runs around the living room of their four-bedroom house in south St. Louis. Ann is pregnant with their second child. She and Keith are still in debt, but they're less worried. They've learned to handle money better. In the spring of 1995, the Post-Dispatch took the Shireys to two certified financial planners, John Denando and Eileen Dorsey. They plotted a path for the Shireys to reach financial security. Their story was the first in a series called "Money Makeover." The series will resume soon, so a reporter asked the Shireys how things worked out. Keith and Ann are West Coast natives whose nesting instincts drew them to St. Louis. They met and fell in love at a men's clothing store in Tacoma, Wash. He was the manager; she was a clerk. When Edison Brothers transferred Keith to Hawaii, Ann quit college to marry him. She followed him again to a new store in San Francisco, where the couple began thinking about a family. Homes were too costly in San Francisco. It's the most expensive city in the country when housing costs are compared to average income. St. Louis ranks as one of the five cheapest cities, and it's also headquarters for Edison Brothers, Keith's employer. So, the couple wrangled transfers and headed east. When the Shireys met the planners, Keith was working in training at Edison. Ann was managing a Lerner clothing store. Together they were pulling in about $48,000 - a bit above the median for families in St. Louis. But moving expenses and bills for minor surgery had left them in debt. They owed $11,000 on credit cards and a car loan on their 1994 Cavalier. "We're spenders," Ann confessed to the planners. "We spend what we make. Our checking account is depleted every two weeks." With a child on the way, they were looking for a way to climb out of debt and into a house. Planners Dorsey and Denando recommended a financial crash diet. Stop spending and start saving, they said. Eat brown bag lunches. Lock the credit cards away. Spend only $75 a month on entertainment. Ann put her hands over her ears as the planners said they should buy no new clothes for two years. "I don't want to hear this," she said. The plan was designed to pay off the credit cards and build up a $5,000 emergency fund to tide the family over if either loses a job. The Shireys wanted to get into a house in one year. Wait two, said the planners, and they would be in better financial shape with a nice down payment in hand. The Shireys took some of the planners advice. They bought more life insurance, for instance. But they went easier on themselves than the planners recommended. …

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